Sometimes, it’s better to lead by letting others do the talking.
I lead two Cadette troops, and I’m often looking for ways to introduce them to positive role models and inspiring women leaders. Sure we could show a video, or have them read about famous change-makers (and we do!) but my go-to super-leader strategy is: The Special Guest. I love to invite women from the community (and beyond) who have a connection to our current badgework or troop activities to visit virtually or in-person and talk about their work.
Special Guests, Special Benefits
There are a lot of benefits to bringing outside folks into our meetings. For starters, most badges have at least one requirement that involves talking to an expert as part of the “Discover” process. The girls have an opportunity to hear first-hand from a real person making a difference in their community, and they get to meet a diverse pool of experts.
Just about anyone I’ve invited have been excited to talk to our girls. They get the satisfaction of passing on their knowledge and words of advice to the next generation of go-getters. They also have a chance to inspire girls to consider following a career path in their sector.
It turns out meetings with Special Guests are actually easier on me and my co-leaders than ones without. By not having to prepare meeting content on something we know little about, we can focus more on the activities and other troop business.
Guest speakers have worked well in person, and surprisingly, over zoom as well. Online meet and greets can be recorded for girls that missed out, and they also open up the possibility to have speakers located just about anywhere.
For the Outdoor Art badge, we had a zoom call with a local mosaic artist who has created a lot of public art in Oakland. She was able to give us a video tour of her workshop, show us the tools and the materials she uses, and walk us around her garden gallery. Before making their own terrariums, our girls met an entrepreneur living in Puerto Rico with a successful Etsy shop. She built up her own business and cultivates thousands of air plants to sell via mail. To kick off the cookie season, we invited a local cookie entreprenHER to talk about her family run business.
When we’re out for an adventure, I’m always on the lookout for an impromptu Q&A session, as Special Guests can be found just about anywhere. At a recent campout, we asked the ranger station if a park ranger could stop by our campsite and talk to our troop about her job. It turns out she was a Girl Scout once too! During our snack break while kayaking, I asked our guide to share more about how and why she ended up becoming an instructor and guide. To kick off a scavenger hunt at an REI store, we asked an associate to discuss her love of the outdoors, and explain how to plan and prepare for a trip.
I try to prepare the speakers I invite before the meeting by providing them with information about the badge requirements, and the activities we have planned. Usually, our special guest explains a bit about their area of expertise, shares their career journey and answers questions from the girls.
Some examples of special guests we’ve welcomed in person:
- For our Junior Product Design and Jewelry badges, we invited a designer who makes her own jewelry to discuss the product design process, and a retired business owner who owned a jewelry store.
- The Director of a local Meals on Wheels affiliate talked to the girls about their services, and the growing problem of lonely seniors living in isolation. We then decorated and laminated placemats which were handed out by volunteers along with hot meals.
- A manager from a childcare resource and referral agency came to talk about babysitting responsibilities for the Babysitting badge. She shared her career path in childcare sector, and also explained the importance of having access to affordable childcare.
- An executive director of a local nonprofit that helps pets living in encampments in Oakland came to talk about the challenges of unsheltered people, and the lengths they go for their pets.
Tips for Inviting in Special Guests
- Refer to them and introduce them as a “Special Guest.” Everything becomes more special, and everyone feels more special – because they are!
- Prioritize finding women speakers. (We’re Girl Scouts, after all!)
- Ask your girls, parents, and caregivers to recommend someone they know. Perhaps a colleague, relative, or family friend works in a field related to badgework?
- Prepare your girls ahead of time by sharing basic background information on your guest before they arrive or call in. This leaves more time for questions and answers.
- Prepare your guest in advance by sharing any badge requirements, confirm the topics for discussion, and ask them to bring a funny story and/or an artifact or tool of the trade to share.
- Help your troop think of questions they have in advance and encourage them to ask the guest their questions themselves
- Seek out presenters from diverse backgrounds, representing a range of ages and experiences.
- Follow up with a thank you note and include a photo or two if possible.
In Girls Scouts, we often focus on outdoor activities, badgework, special trips or cookie sales as essential components of scouting. But when planning out your year or next few meetings, remember to include a few Special Guests to help girls DISCOVER other careers and CONNECT with other women TAKING ACTION. With a little effort and advanced preparation, you can make your meetings and outings easier to plan for and more fun for everyone.
- Want to start inviting your own special guests to troop meetings? Learn how to use your networking skills to create memorable Girl Scout experiences.
- See how special a special guest can be with another post from our author on Lunar New Year Cookie Marketing
- Special guests can help your girls earn badges and awards on topics you might not feel equipped to teach! Learn about how you can use this technique to help your girls earn their My Promise My Faith pin.
Tiffany Eng—Tiffany Eng lives in Oakland California and leads two Cadette troops for her two daughters. As a lifetime Girl Scout member and past Gold Award recipient, she has always made time to pursue her own take action projects in her community. Most recently, she is a co-founder of the Friends of Lincoln Square Park and is working with the City of Oakland and the Oakland Chinatown Community to build a new expanded recreation center.
Great tips, Tiffany!